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The passage of legislation
In the British political system, almost all legislation is proposed by the Government and much of it comes from promises made in the manifesto of the relevant political party at the last election. At the beginning of each annual session of the Parliament, the main Bills to be considered are announced by the monarch in a speech opening that year’s session of Parliament. The other type of bills, known as a Private Member’s Bill, is often less successful. A Private Member’s Bill is sponsored by an individual MP rather than by the Government. He or she will promote the Bill as an individual and will therefore not be able to rely on the assistance of the party Whips in gaining a majority in the House of Commons.
All legislation has to be approved by both Houses of Parliament.
In the Houses of Parliament, a proposed piece of legislation called a Bill goes through the following stages:
1) the House of Commons stage:
· First reading (the Bill is introduced with simply a reading by a Minister of the long title of the Bill);
· Second Reading (the general principles of the Bill are debated by all the members of the House);
· Committee Stage (each clause of the Bill is examined in detail by a small specially chosen group of members of the House);
· Report Stage (the changes made to the Bill in the Committee are reported to and debated by the whole House which is invited to approve the changes);
· Third Reading (the final version of the Bill is approved by the whole House);
2) the House of Lords stage:
The House of Lords passes the Bill. The House of Lords has much more limited legislative powers than the House of Commons. Money Bills can only be initiated in the Commons and the Lords can only reject legislation from the Commons for one year;
3) the Royal Assent:
· Once both Houses of Parliament have passed a Bill, then it goes to the monarch for the Royal Assent. No monarchs since 16th century have signed Bills themselves. Queen Anne, in 1707, became the last monarch to reject a Bill, while Queen Victoria was the last to give the Royal Assent in person in 1854.